Tonight at 6pm, Berkeley City Council is picking up where we left off two weeks ago by considering an increase in affordable housing mitigation impact fees. An increase in impact fees might increase funds available for affordable housing, but it does nothing to address some of the major costs of building new housing: uncertainty of approval, lengthy delays, and the financing it takes to overcome these barriers.
Please write to email@example.com to oppose raising the fee (agenda item #41) until staff returns with the feasibility study incorporating all of the elements (new BUSD fees, arts fees, updating 2015 data) that Council requested on 6/13. If you can, sign up with East Bay Forward and attend tonight's city council meeting in person.
It is important that we recognize that, while inclusionary zoning is a necessary tool to improve housing affordability and undo decades of segregation by race and class, it is not sufficient by itself to solve the enormous housing challenges Berkeley faces. We need more tools to solve the riddle of providing our most badly needed form of housing: middle-income housing.
Impact fees - which have existed in Berkeley since 2015 - have produced a miniscule quantity of housing affordable to families making less than 120% of the area median income. Many of these families have breadwinners working two or three jobs just to keep up; increasing impact fees won't help them.
Berkeley needs to take meaningful steps towards addressing housing affordability in the region. Holding nearly 12 hours of testimony and public comment to rearrange the chairs on the sinking ship of the Golden State is not meaningful. Zoning reform, streamlined approvals of new housing, and expanded funding for the construction of new housing is what Berkeley needs.
Proponents of Impact Fees might argue that developers are the ones on the hook to pay the fee. In a perfect world, they might. The reality is that these costs are passed on to the people living in new housing. These newcomers are predominantly existing Berkeleyans looking to get out of their aging victorians with asbestos tile and lead paint. Those that aren't from Berkeley are often people fleeing the high rents of Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Oakland while hoping to seek refuge in Berkeley.